This week, as Easter approaches, we discussed Canaan Land: A religious history of African Americans by Albert Raboteou.
Historians have long recognized the crucial role of religion in the social, political, cultural and economic life of black Americans.
Christopher Columbus’s voyages in search of a western route to the Indies revealed to Europeans peoples and lands that they did not know existed. They depended on the labour of native peoples to turn the lands they conquered into profit making colonies. The colonists requested the Crown to allow them to import African slaves to solve labour shortage.
About Ingloriously interrupted people
His daughter Emily Raboteou mentioned her father Albert in a most eloquent way in her essay –Searching For Zion-
“Tamar’s father was an expert in medieval Jewish history, while mine specialized in antebellum African American Christianity. Both men made careers of retrieving and reconstructing the rich histories of ingloriously interrupted peoples. Both were quietly angry men, and Tamar and I were sensitive to their anger, which was at once historical and personal. I was acutely aware of the grandfather I had lost to a racially motivated crime under Jim Crow, though my father didn’t discuss the murder with me. He didn’t need to give words to my grandfather’s absence any more than Tamar’s father had to give words to the Holocaust. There were ghosts in our houses.”
Black Methodism and black religious independence
The book tells about the landmarks in religious history of African-Americans
1794 Richard Allen-Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church-Philadelphia.
Bethel was organized after an incident of racial discrimination drove many of the black members out of St.George’s, the church they had supported for years. One Sunday morning in the early 1790s, the black members of St.George’s were ordered to sit upstairs in a balcony. As the prayer started, the white ushers told Absalom Jones, a respected black parishioner , to get up and move from the front to the back of the balcony. Jones, a dignified man in his late forties, asked the usher to wait until prayer ended, but the white man insisted he move immediately and motioned for another usher to help him lift Jones from his knees. As soon as the prayer was over, Jones and the rest of the black worshippers stood and walked out of the church in a body.
This incident, described years later in Allen’s “Life and Gospel labors”, was being commemorated in annual sermons and children’s pageants a century later as the founding event of black Methodism and black religious independence.
Industrial-education- Booker T Washington
Many black-funded schools promoted a philosophy of industrial education, a practical or vocational program designed to instill the primary virtue of industriousness as the key to moral development. Their goal was to teach students how to earn a living and how to live a morally respectable life. This ideal of industrial education for black people had widespread influence to to its chief spokesman , Booker T Washington, himself a former slave. Washington, educated at Hampston Institute in Virginia, founded the Tuskegee institute in Alabama and built it into an institution of national reputation, influence and power.
The book helped us get some orientation on the different aspects of the church and how it’s history is intertwined with the lives of the people. But church is more than the minister and his sermon. It also involves the active participation of peole in the roles of deacons, ushers, choirs, song leaders, Sunday-School teachers, and ‘mother’ (the wise elders and advisors) of the church as well as in a host of activities. These include leading prayers and hymns , reading Scripture, collecting the offering, hosting visitors, reporting spiritual experiences and observing the customs and behavior that as children they had learnt to associate with church.
In Tripoli, one sees a multi-cultural church with many nationalities blending into a rich interesting mix, ranging from Filipinos, from the Indian subcontinent, the Subsaharan Africa and other Arab countries like Egypt.
Here is video link of the Harvest Festival of Anglican Church- which reflects the different nationalities in the congregation, coming together in “Food culture.”
The Choir is another point of organization. Here is a link to the African Choir of Catholic Church at Dahra-established 1937. The African Choir has a great energy
2012- Remembering St Augustine of Hippo, North African spiritual traditions
Mediterranean Spiritual Traditions
Ta Pinu….Gozo, Malta http://wp.me/piL5Q-pC
2014- Intimate Links-The Church in Tripoli -Libya